What becomes of the broken-hearted? They go shopping, get drunk and have unprotected, meaningless sex. I have done all of those things at one time or another, and many other acts of lust, self-loathing and despair. But, like, whatever.
I believe it to be a common thing that bitterness, loneliness and hate are far more effective motivators of artistic expression than contentment, love and tolerance. Perverse but true.
Years ago I went with a friend to see a theatrical performance which was little more than a ball of fluff. Afterwards my friend said “Well, that was not written by an unhappy man” and I know what she meant. We met the cast afterwards and one of their friends immediately said to us “Wasn’t that just the loveliest thing, ever?”.
Although I was polite, I declined to agree, and he took me to task on what I thought was wrong with it. There was nothing wrong with it, I guess, but I just do not find smug, self-satisfaction to be a moving artistic experience in the least. I talked to the director later and he looked down his nose at me, in both senses, and I recognized that quality in him that Willard observes about Kilgore in “Apocalypse Now” (1979 Francis Ford Coppola).
“He was just one of those guys with that weird light around him. He just knew he wasn’t gonna get so much as a scratch here.”
I’ve met people like that before and since: young, good-looking, talented people who just know they are going to succeed. But why? Because they always have done. They make comfortable middle-class art that is enjoyed by comfortable, middle-class people and, most importantly, selected for funding by other comfortable, middle-class people.
But I’m not bitter.
In 2003, after being in a relationship for 15 years, 10 of which were mostly happy, one thing led to another, and I betrayed my partner with another woman. At first emotionally, and then sexually. Those are the facts, but it took several years to pass before I realised that I had been the unfaithful one. It felt like the relationship was over years before, and so it took almost no effort for me to cross what seemed to be an inevitable bridge. And so I guess it wasn’t my fault?
The next few years were very chaotic, emotionally, and I went out with more women in two years than I had in the previous twenty. However, despite all the problems, there is only one woman that I got involved with that I wish I had never met, although several of those liaisons were unhappy and inevitably doomed.
But what I have come to realise is that some people do not invest what people like me invest in a relationship, because for them it’s just a transaction, or maybe they have that weird light around them.
I remember that time as very productive, creatively, if not emotionally.
Anyway (getting back to the misery and self-loathing), I had one of my “brilliant” ideas; I would collect the poetry I have written into a small volume and call it “That bitch broke my heart (and other stories)” and self-publish it. I know I have a small collection of poems about relationships that were written at a very particular time in my life (the that bitch bit) and, although it is not going to amount to a collected works, it might make a slim volume worth publishing, along with the other stories.
However, when I came to look at what I have from that period (the stuff that is worth publishing), there is nowhere near as much good material as I thought.
It turns out I’m not really a poet, but I did have a few moments.
The upshot of all this navel-gazing is that the emotional upheaval was highly motivational, creatively, and I miss it in that sense. However, I do not miss the loneliness, frustration and years of low self-esteem. I met my wife in 2008 and I haven’t written a poem since.
I will be publishing “That bitch broke my heart (and other stories)” in some form. Online initially, with a low production value printed version available soon after.
Via Black Daffodil Press.